Sri Lanka Enters a Global Conflict

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Chris Good.


After the horrific Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, The Soufan Group links them to a global spread in Salafi-jihadist extremism, noting that both ISIS and al-Qaeda “have long viewed South Asia as fertile ground to gain new territory and recruits, and militant propaganda has highlighted injustices against Muslims in Bangladesh, Myanmar, India, and Sri Lanka.”

The bombings may remind some of Sri Lanka’s history of conflict—its civil war ended in 2009—but in a New York Times op-ed, Randy Boyagoda points out that Sri Lanka’s divisions have been ethnic, not religious, and that the island has a long tradition of religious pluralism. With Sunday’s attacks, Sri Lanka has gained “membership in a global conflict that is at once fresh and familiar,” he writes.

Ukraine’s ‘Direct Democracy Experiment’

That’s what Volodymyr Zelensky’s Ukrainian presidency could become, Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky writes, predicting that Zelensky (who has said little about his views) will lean heavily on popular opinion and civil-society groups for direction while in office. His team lacks traditional insiders, which will make it tough for both Russia and the West to find intermediaries and deal with Ukraine as a critical buffer, he suggests.

The comedian president will face some serious challenges, Michael Bociurkiw writes for CNN, as Zelensky will inherit one of Europe’s poorest countries, in need of serious reforms. “For Zelensky, winning was the easy part,” Melinda Haring, of the Atlantic Council and the Foreign Policy Research Institute, tells him.

Trump Doubles Down on Iran Sanctions

By deciding to end sanctions waivers for Iran’s remaining oil buyers, the Trump administration will escalate tensions in the region, irk US allies, and give the oil market less room to absorb shocks, Keith Johnson and Robbie Gramer write at Foreign Policy. It’s Washington’s “latest bet that it can amp up the diplomatic and economic pressure on Tehran without hurting the global economy or angering friends in Europe and Asia,” they write, after the designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization earlier this month.

The “eleventh-hour” decision will make compliance hard for China (which has insisted it can still keep buying the oil, American proclamations regardless), Japan, South Korea, India, and Turkey, writes Gerald Feierstein of the Middle East Institute, putting the US “on a course for conflict” over the move with some key partners.

Africa Goes Digital

Investors should get ready for a digital boom in Africa, McKinsey’s Acha Leke and Tawanda Sibanda write in the Harvard Business Review, now that e-commerce firm Jumia (valued at nearly $2 billion) has given Africa its “first technology unicorn.” The continent has half the world’s mobile financial-services customers and is set to double North America’s number of smartphone users by 2022, while online sales account for only 1% of the country’s retail (vs. 24% in China), they write. Despite obstacles like slow mobile data, all that amounts to an opening for digital innovation, Leke and Sibanda predict.

No Collusion, Plenty of Interference

The Mueller report offers a hard lesson for US lawmakers, Jamie Fly and Laura Rosenberger of The German Marshall fund write in Foreign Affairs: America has bickered internally, while Russian political interference has gone on unchecked. While the Mueller report has laid bare the extent of Russia’s activities, taking action to stop them has remained a partisan issue; meanwhile, other Western countries have taken the lead in regulating online platforms and political speech.

Their message to the US: Stop fighting, pass laws, and find a way to deter foreign actors.

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